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American/Cozy Mysteries

A Shot to Die For, Libby Fischer Hellman, Poisoned Pen Press, $24.95 and Berkley Prime Crime, $6.99.

A Shot to Die For by Libby Fischer Hellman Poisoned Pen Hardcover

Berkley Prime Crime Paperback
Watching the development of this talented author has been a delight. Her main character, Ellie Foreman, is a middle aged filmmaker who never the less manages to believably stumble across crimes, and with dogged persistence and intelligence, usually manages to unscramble the puzzles thrown in her lap. Ellie is endearing, completely believable, and familiar. I think many readers can easily identify with her - her status as a single mother of a teen-aged daughter, her halting love life - and this explains part (though certainly not all) of Hellman's popularity. The other part is her increasing ease with a compelling and fast paced narrative. A Shot to Die For starts off with a bang - literally.

Ellie is at a busy Chicago area rest stop when she chats briefly with a woman who needs a cell phone and who is waiting for a ride, when the woman is shot dead in front of her. Another strength of this particular writer is the fact that she never minimizes any death in any of her novels - Ellie feels the full brunt of what she's experiencing, in this case, shocked trauma. As her life begins to right itself, after she's been questioned by the police and gotten home safely, she's visited by two women who turn out to be the dead woman's mother and sister. They want to know if Ellie can tell them more about their sister/daughter's last moments on earth, and that's enough to set the brain of the curious Ellie into high gear and make her want to know more.

As it happens, Ellie gets a job in the swank resort town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, filming a video for a new resort there. The dead woman came from - Lake Geneva. Mystery writers never include unnecessary details, and as Ellie gets more and more involved in discovering what happens to the dead woman, while at the same time meeting a new man and trying to shoot her video - we're with her all the way. I can almost forgive her for leaving us hanging about Ellie's love life at the end of the book, and I'm really eager to see what happens next. What more could a happy series reader ask for? (Robin)

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